Hatchery fish must be figured in with "wild" fish for endangered species; draft plan by NMFS may affect fish debate


July 25, 2002     No. 84
THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE HAS RELEASED A DRAFT POLICY regarding the role of hatchery fish in listing Pacific salmon and steelhead for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The policy was prompted by a federal court decision that NMFS could not list naturally spawning salmon without extending federal protection to hatchery fish in the same Evolutionarily Significant Unit. NMFS said the draft, which it described as a "pre-decisional document" was designed to ensure that hatchery populations would be considered both for their positive and negative effects on wild salmon in determining which ESUs to list for protection. NMFS admitted that under its current policy, only the negative effects were considered. In a letter to tribes and other "co-managers" of salmon, NMFS Northwest Regional Director Bob Lohn said, "If an ESU as a whole warrants listing, all populations in an ESU will be listed whether they are of natural or hatchery origin..." But risk of extinction will still be based on whether an ESU "is sustaining itself through natural reproduction in its natural ecosystem over the long term." NMFS also said that the ESA considers artificial propagation a legitimate method of conservation.

THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER INTERPRETED THE DRAFT POLICY TO MEAN that NMFS can't end ESA protections for salmon simply because hatcheries can pump out millions of fish from the same ESU. The P-I reported the draft disappointed property-rights advocates and cheered environmentalists. The newspaper also noted the draft comes "even as Washington officials are allowing unusually generous salmon-fishing limits," and for the first time, "anticipates using some hatcheries to help rebuild dwindling wild stocks." An Associated Press article led with the policy giving "hatchery salmon endangered-fish status" along with identical wild populations. "It's an all-or-nothing determination," NMFS spokesman Brian Gorman said. The AP said the proposal "drew criticism from groups on all sides of the hatchery-fish debate," but was praised by fishing groups. Still, the AP noted, lumping hatchery and wild salmon for protection under the ESA could place greater restrictions on harvest. The draft was being sent to four state wildlife agencies, 52 Indian tribes, and two other U.S. agencies for comment. It will be released for public comment after the "co-manager" review. The draft policy is available at: www.nwr.noaa.gov/HatcheryListingPolicy/HatcheryListingPolicy.html <http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/HatcheryListingPolicy/HatcheryListingPolicy.html>.

A SEATTLE LAW FIRM PLANNED TODAY TO FILE SUIT IN AN IDAHO STATE COURT to stop Kentucky bluegrass growers from burning field stubble. (Spokesman-Review, July 25) "These people are relentless," said Linda Clovis, a spokesman for the North Idaho Farmers Association. "It's to the point where you can't farm anymore. You have to spend half your time fighting all these battles." Last week, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge dismissed a suit that argued field burning violated the Clean Air Act. The class-action suit to be filed today by attorney Steve Berman argues that field burning violates Idaho's trespass and public nuisance laws. It asks for an injunction against burning, or a temporary 14-day restraining order. Washington has already banned field-stubble burning by grass growers. 

THE WASHINGTON ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL IS THREATENING TO SUE THE Peshastin Irrigation District if it refuses to negotiate with the group over ways to protect salmon and bull trout in Peshastin Creek. (Wenatchee World, July 24) A spokesman for the district said the environmental group is demanding that more water be left in the creek than Mother Nature provides, even if the district was shut down. The district's 14-mile canal serves nearly 800 farmers and residential landowners. Chelan County already plans to install a fish ladder at the district's diversion point.

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